Becoming More-than-Human: Realizing Earthly Eudaimonia to (E)coflourish through an Entangled Ethos
Humans are creating a world of ashes. In this time of enormous death across the planet’s breadth, humans must explore alternative ways of coexisting with more-than-human beings.An average of around 25 per cent of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened, suggesting that around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss. Without such action, there will be a further acceleration in the global rate of species extinction, which is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.(pp. XV–XVI)
2. More-than-Humans Abound in Media
3. Creative/Critical Animals and Media Studies
DeLuca continues, offering a transformative agenda, “As scholars, our task is not to judge an already given, static world and find it false and lacking, but to encounter and explore a ceaselessly changing, creative, eventful pluriverse” (p. 176). The need for this creative turn is as startingly as it is sobering. Contemplating visual media studies at large and DeLuca’s commitments to creativity, Hariman and Lucaites (2019) remark, “The only ‘rational’ response” to exigent catastrophe “might be an even larger commitment to ‘irrational’ hope: to look desperately but positively for the means for ‘possible new worlds’” (p. 345). CCS offers an alternative to critique, one that is primed to address the calamitous consequences of the Anthropocene.Imagine a Cultural Studies dominated not by critique but creativity, not reason and rationality but feeling and affect, not ideology but experience, not subjects but assemblages, not moralism but understanding, not lonely humans but the pandemonium of things.(p. 171)
4. More-than-Human Communication
5. Earthly Eudaimonia
6. Entangled Ethos
7. (E)coflourishing through the More-than-Human Evolution
7.1. Separation, Descent, and Encounter
7.2. Ecological Attunement
The more-than-human octopus invites the human into the wild through her entangled ethos and the human attunes to the web of relations that comprise the kelp forest ecology. As the human learns ecological attunement, his ethos entangles with the more-than-human world to provide insight into how this ecosystem flourishes.Finally…there she was. It’s like…a human friend, like, waving and saying, “Hi, I’m excited to see you”. And I could feel it, like from one minute to the next, “Okay…I trust you, human. And now you can come into my octopus world.”(emphasis added)
The octopus’s entangled ethos reveals the ecosystem’s earthly eudaimonia: the kelp forest “nurtures” the creatures within so that they may flourish amongst one another. Earthly eudaimonia is present not through how one organism flourishes somehow separate from the others, but how the web of creatures (e)coflourish by interrelating. Now that the human has learned ecological attunement, he is ready for the next lesson.And it hit me how she was teaching me so much…People ask, “Why are you going to the same place every day?” But that’s when you see the subtle differences. And that’s when you get to know the wild. So when these thousands of threads going off from the octopus to all the other animals, predator and prey, and then this incredible forest…just nurturing all of this. And now I know how the helmet shell is connected to the urchin and how the octopus is connected to the helmet shell.(emphasis added, Ehrlich and Reed 2020)
7.3. Sensitized Compassion
Through his unfolding relationship with the more-than-human octopus, the human attains the capacity for sensitized compassion. The human’s ethos becomes entangled through compassionate relations with the more-than-human world. In doing so, the human recovers from his burnout to regain relational capacity for his family. However, he also extends that compassion to animals by becoming capable of sensitively caring for wild animals as he would a loved one. His ethos, once fraught, is repaired by entangling with the more-than-human world.And then this almost felt, psychologically, like I was…going through a type of dismembering. You start thinking about your own death and your own vulnerability, worried about your family, your child. I hadn’t been a person that was overly sentimental towards animals before. I realized I was changing. She was teaching me to become sensitized to the other. Especially wild creatures.(emphasis added)
As the human’s sensitized compassion for nonhuman animals grow, so too does his capacity to (e)coflourish with more-than-humans through peacefully, earthly coexistence. He can now participate in earthly eudaimonia: to (e)coflourish with a range of more-than-human beings. Thus, a rhetorical appeal emerges on a mode of life centered on the concern for nonhuman animals. Through this eudaimonic rhetoric, the film invites the audience to (e)coflourish by becoming sensitive to the predicament more-than-human animals face in a world dominated by human activity. In this vision for (e)coexistence, nonhuman animals are no longer pushed to the margins, but instead are central to worldly concerns. The human––and perhaps the audience––are now ready for a significant evolution.She’d made me realize just how precious wild places are…You slowly start to care about all the animals, even the tiniest little animals. You realize that every one is very important. To sense how vulnerable these wild animals’ lives are, and actually, then how vulnerable all our lives on this planet are.
7.4. A More-than-Human Evolution
By representing the octopus as a more-than-human, the film creates a space to cherish and respect animals. Now, by evolving the human to a more-than-human status, the documentary animalizes the human so that he joins nonhuman animals in their lively goodness. He can participate in earthly eudaimonia not as separate to more-than-human animals, but as one himself. The audience, through the sense of care that arises from the film’s representations, are also invited to become-more-than human. While the audience may not grasp the deep connection to nature perhaps necessary to become more-than-human, the aspiration is made tangible. This desire is eudaimonic in nature, meaning the audience is invited to live a mode of life where they too are animalized, while being sensitively compassionate to nonhuman animals amidst their human-caused challenges. The audience is offered this animalized earthly eudaimonia through an entangled ethos, or the ethics that emerges when one’s actions are considered in the context of other living beings.My relationship with the sea forest and its creatures deepens…week after month after year after year. You’re in touch with this wild place, and it’s speaking to you. Its language is visible. I fell in love with [the octopus] but also with that amazing wildness that she represented and… and how that changed me. What she taught me was to feel…that you’re part of this place, not a visitor.(emphasis added, Ehrlich and Reed 2020)
The child gains “a gentleness”––a sensitized compassion––to care for more-than-human animals through the lessons taught to him by his father. Yet, the child realizes a deep connection with nature to become more-than-human not solely through his father’s teachings. A scene shows the child contemplating the natural world through play as the human reflects, “And I think that’s the thing that thousands of hours in nature can teach a child.” The child evolves to also become more-than-human through spending an exceptional amount of time maturing in a wild place. Now the child can (e)coflourish with his fellow more-than-humans through realizing earthly eudaimonia. By stripping the encumbrance of adulthood from sensitized compassion and animality, the audience is further invited to participate in this alternative mode of existence. The result is a final appeal for earthly eudaimonia, persuasive through its innocent simplicity.He’s like a little marine biologist now. He knows so much. And very powerful swimmer. And as he gets older, he seems to want to do it more and more. To see that develop, a strong sense of himself…an incredible confidence, but the most important thing, a gentleness.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Conflicts of Interest
When describing nonhuman animals as “wild” or “wildlife”, I mean those in nautre or who are free-living (non-domesticated). I do not mean “wild” in a derogatory sense.
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Quartz, S. Becoming More-than-Human: Realizing Earthly Eudaimonia to (E)coflourish through an Entangled Ethos. Journal. Media 2022, 3, 238-253. https://doi.org/10.3390/journalmedia3020018
Quartz S. Becoming More-than-Human: Realizing Earthly Eudaimonia to (E)coflourish through an Entangled Ethos. Journalism and Media. 2022; 3(2):238-253. https://doi.org/10.3390/journalmedia3020018Chicago/Turabian Style
Quartz, Sean. 2022. "Becoming More-than-Human: Realizing Earthly Eudaimonia to (E)coflourish through an Entangled Ethos" Journalism and Media 3, no. 2: 238-253. https://doi.org/10.3390/journalmedia3020018